Symbols & Meanings Oct 1

Wheel of Fortune

wheel of fortune - CopyThe Roman goddess Fortuna, with her long and dubious history rooted in numerous interpretations, is still symbolically considered as a chance card by some. From that culture she earned her place in the tarot, often being expressed as Fortuna Dubia (dubious fortune), Fortuna Brevis (brief fortune), and Fortuna Mobilis (changing fortune).

Before Roman culture, Fortuna may have found her way into early civilization through agrarian roots: some texts purport that priestesses would sacrifice their king in midwinter to the goddess Fortuna based upon the credence that destroying his effigy appealed to the goddess to create spring from winter. This practice is orated in the earliest reference to the Wheel of Fortune, from 55 BC. in Seneca’s tragedy Agamemnon:

O Fortune, who dost bestow the throne’s high boon with mocking hand, in dangerous and doubtful state thou settest the too exalted. Never have sceptres obtained calm peace or certain tenure . . . great kingdoms sink of their own weight . . .

Bound up in the Wheel of Fortune, therefore, are several themes: circle of life, pride before fall, cyclic destruction and renewal, as well as the mysteries of fate, luck, chance, and fortune. When we draw the Wheel of Fortune our major question becomes what circumstances in life have I themed into existence, and what appears to be fated regardless of my efforts? Why do some prosper while others fail? How does someone go from rags to riches to rags again? What turns the wheel of life?

Labeling the Wheel of Fortune as a symbol of pure chance, inevitable fate, or dumb luck, however, is oversimplification, and misses the complete picture. Seeing only random events will only reduce life to a meaningless stream of ups and downs. God or Fate, then, becomes an enigmatic and frivolous hand of destiny, with only reasons He or She can understand. There’s a plan—but what is it, really?

The Wheel bears the great question of how and why anything and everything happens in the universe. How does the sun shine? Why did atoms come into existence? Does spring follow winter, or vice versa? What makes gravity work?

Is fate really an illusion that we accept because our limited scope can’t comprehend the invisible connection between all things? When we consider that our world view is largely shaped by a limited visual spectrum and a measured life span, which do we ultimately accept? Shit happens, or circumstances continually called into existence? Maybe our perspective falls somewhere in between the two. Or, the wheel of life becomes a painting we see more clearly when we step off the merry-go-round, when we step back from it.

The ever-turning wheel of life can also signify the laws of Karma, cause and effect, what goes around comes around. By the actions we take in life, we build up destiny for later. Therein comes the challenge: can we also change our past by our future?

In the thick middle of existence, we often see only the events immediately before and behind us, our daily breath and bread. But when we withdraw, a pattern emerges. Perhaps we then gain a truer assessment of where our life is headed.

The Wheel can usher in circumstances we may not fully understand, seeming effects without causes, even. It may be impossible to connect the dots at the moment. How we respond or react is more important than deciphering the elements. Can we accept these circumstances, even welcome them? Can we adapt to them, and ultimately find meaning and value in them?


Uncommon Tarot Meanings:

  • Turning point
  • Unexpected encounters
  • Life speeds up
  • Incapacity to follow universal rhythmic complexities in human form
  • Time to buy a lottery ticket
  • Rite of Passage
  • Tapestry of life, larger cycles involved that encompass your immediate situation
  • Change happens
  • Opportunity knocking
  • Reversal of fortune
  • Discovering your role